SHARING MY FAVORITE MUSIC OF 2014

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Yep, 2014 was another ball busting, challenging, often exhausting and frustrating year for me in many ways. But thank God, it’s been another incredibly fulfilling, exciting and miraculous year for me and the other love of my life: music. From the ongoing life-altering experience of singing lead in an assortment of bands — most notably Second Wind as we enter our ninth year together this February — to intimately interviewing and often meeting and spending time with some of my musical heroes, to sitting in awe at the live shows that come with it all, I have to keep pinching myself to believe some of these moments were real. But yeah, they were.

That aside, for the first time ever, I thought I’d share with you my favorite ten albums — yes there are still albums — of 2014, along with my favorite song from each album. The songs are YouTube videos so skip the ads if they come up (or watch them, I don’t care) and just enjoy some really special music. This isn’t really in any order, they are all fabulous to me. Yes, I know there are many other great records that came out in 2014, this is just what I personally discovered and found to be incredible music, either through my interviews or just my own range of musical interests. And most of the interview pieces I mention are here on my blog so if the spirit moves you, scroll down from this piece and check them out. As for the list, do what you want with it, but hopefully, you will discover some great music you may not have known about. That’s really the intention. What better way to say goodbye to this year than with some great music, right?

1) U2 – Songs Of Innocence: Yep I’m a U2 homer, but no bullshit, this is a miraculous and unforgettable collection of amazing U2 songs that got lost in a silly marketing fracas, but all in all, the legendary band released it’s most personal and powerful album in many moons, and yes, it is all amazing. If you’re a fan, you already love it. If you’re not, give it a try, you won’t be sorry at least with a few tunes. My favorite song among many is this gorgeous ode to new beginnings, “Song For Someone,” beautifully sung by Bono.

2) Phish – Fuego: Their most accessible album yet, the jam band kings take their wonderful sometimes meandering sonics and fine tune them into a stunningly sublime yet coherent record, exquisitely produced by Pink Floyd producer Bob Ezrin. The key question for them always is will the songs convey their unparalleled live vibe, and judging by how these songs sounded live this fall, they nailed it. I love alot of the tunes here, but “Devotion To A Dream” is not only the most fun danceable Phish/Dead-like tune on the album, but also has some personal intimations for me. So let’s give you that one but rest assured they hit a home run on the whole record.

3) Puss In Boots – No Fools No Fun: I was lucky enough to interview Sasha Dobson — 1/3 of this fabulously cool trio that’s been playing together for a while and finally released their first album this year — while she was walking her dog in Prospect Park. She and her two pals, superduperstar Norah Jones and the lesser known but also very talented Catherine Popper, are all great songwriters, and have crafted a bunch of very eclectically cool and different songs, along with a couple killer covers, one of which is possibly my favorite on this collection, a beautiful rendering of the Band classic, “Twilight.”

4) Bruce Springsteen – High Hopes: I know, Bruce could do an album of nursery rhymes and I’d love every second of it, but with his 18th record, he continues to take his one in a trillion sound and unmatchable trademark and put out great music that is fresh yet familiar. There are a buncha great tunes here but my favorite could be the haunting “Down In The Hole” co-written by Bruce’s new muse, guitar mindbender Tom Morello.

5) Lucinda Williams – Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone: One of America’s most astounding songwriters does it again at the age of 61, and this time we get two albums worth of her incredibly honest, often stark and dark, yet exhilarating music. And after spending 20 minutes one on one backstage at the Lincoln Theater in DC just talking with her about music and everyday life, I get her more than ever. Hard to pick a fave out of all these wonders, but here’s mine, the powerful “Foolishness”…at least it’s my favorite this week. The video is great, her and her stupendous studio band at work for a minute or so first, but if you want to get right to the song, it’s 1:10 in.

6) Trigger Hippy – Trigger Hippy: After my interview with the very cool and candid Steve Gorman, former drummer for the Black Crowes, I really hoped this debut record with the superstar band he created post-Crowes would kill it. Well, it does more than that. Every song works, whether it’s Jackie Greene or Joan Osborne or Nick Gorvik on vocals in a rollicking swamp rocker or an agonizing ballad, it’s a freshman home run from a bunch of rock and roll seniors honors grads. Again, it’s hard to pick one, and there are some really good hard rockers on here, but “Heartache On The Line,” a beautiful duet from Greene and Osborne about the hardships of an aging love, just gets to me, it’s my life to a tee. And the video here? Recorded on a mike from vinyl. You can even hear the occasional crackle. Music to my ears.

7) Imelda May – Tribal: If you don’t know her by now, it’s time. This red-hot Irish rockabilly-tinged siren with the blonde swirl in her hair (who I’ve joyously interviewed a couple times) is on a major roll (new record, Irish TV show, world tour) and for good reason: her wild and rollicking sound, along with a voice that can blow you away or make you cry and a personality to boot, is really unique and always fantastic. The title cut of her excellent new record will do for now, so go ahead, get “Tribal.”

8) Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways: I’ve been very slowly, but somewhat surely, getting into the Foos’ thrashy yet hook-filled sound since they started up, heck, even us midlifers do a Foos song in our gigs sometimes. But it wasn’t until seeing Dave Grohl’s miraculous rockumentary/Foo Fest/HBO series that I’ve become a true Foo believer. Not only does Grohl do a fabulous job of telling great musical stories, but he finishes each episode with a song he wrote during the week he was doing the episode. Pretty amazing. And you know what? All the songs are really good. If I gotta pick one, it’s the epic closer from the New York City segment, “I Am A River,” one of my favorite songs from recent years and sure to be a fantastic song live. Here’s a bonus, Dave’ll tell you how he wrote this song if you click here.

9) Neil Young – A Letter Home: Most of what Neil does moves my soul, so even an album recorded in Jack White’s antique and carnival-esque record booth with all it’s flaws and noise grabs you by the heart and stays there. Amidst the crackles and low fidelity, his 34th record is another miracle from the miraculous Neil, it’s just his voice and guitar doing covers, but it gets you there once again. I’ll pick this Dylan gem (that also to me evokes Zevon), “Girl From The North Country,”with the bonus on the video of seeing him record it. You’re welcome.

10) Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Hypnotic Eye: One of rock’s true greats shows he can still bring it, and bring it really hard. With his Heartbreakers in full splendor, Petty crafted a nearly perfect record that both harkens back to Damn The Torpedoes but also shows he can sound relevant almost 40 years after that classic came out, by just being TP. Many killer tunes here, but my fave since I first heard the record will do just fine here, “Red River,” with one of the best choruses I’ve heard in a long time. And any song that begins with these lyrics is gold to me: “She’s got a 3-D Jesus in a picture frame, Got a child that she never named, She shakes a snake above her hair, Talks in tongues when there’s no one there.” Ahhhhhh…..

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